Recent discussion at contact meeting organised by the ICC

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jaycee
Recent discussion at contact meeting organised by the ICC
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ICC discussion on why the proletariat is the revolutionary class.

I thought the discussion was a good one; there were lots of key points made and a good level of focus in the discussion. We are all in agreement with the basic premise of the discussion i.e. the need to defend the position that the proletariat is and remains the only hope of humanity in this epoch.

My comments:

I made some comments which might have come across as overly pessimistic. I was, in my mind simply posing questions that I feel have not often been adequately dealt with.

While the working class remains the only revolutionary class and the only hope for human survival/progress it is in a period of deep retreat and has been for a long period of time. This needs to be fully analysed and this was the intention of me stressing what I see as a weakness of the proletariat as a class in general; a lack of independence.

Peasants and tribal societies (even slaves) were perfectly capable of living without their masters; the proletariat is not. This is especially true the more proletarianised the class is; I.e the more they have been robbed of the land and the skills and knowledge needed to survive outside of capitalism. This means that the working class must not simply escape their masters as previous classes could but must destroy those masters and the position of master/servant itself. This revolutionary ‘strength’ comes with a lot of draw backs and barriers to the proletariat playing its historic,revolutionary role. I think the fact that the only succesful revolution in our history came from a ‘new’ proletariat is also more significant than it is often seen to be.

This inherent weakness of the proletariat has become more and more acute during decadence and especially decomposition but has always been there to a certain extent. In the ascendant phase it mainly expressed itself as a tendency to try to build up its organisations within capitalism. These organisation were more ‘independent’ than they would become in decadence but they always contained strong bourgeois tendencies and could never actually escape capitalism or its logic entirely.

Frankfurt School:

I have since then seen how a lot of what I was getting at is connected to the Frankfurt school and its legacy. The Frankfurt school was a product of despair in many ways and while it contained within its ranks many thinkers with insights worth incorporating and acknowledging; they ultimately played and continue to play a counter-revolutionary role. This role also needs acknowledging and a deeper analysis than it often gets. The bourgeois state after all showed itself capable of assimilating and using Marxism against the working class; not only in the so called ‘communist’ countries but also in the ‘democratic’ ones.

The reasons they are important in this discussion:

1. they did draw on real tendencies in ‘late’ capitalism; in particular the totalitarian nature of post WW2 capitalism and the fact that the working class in the ‘west’ had been to a large extent become pacified by the Welfare state and consumerism. While these did not stop the working class being the revolutionary class under capitalism, they did increase the degree to which the working class was drawn into ‘civil society’ and was a further step in the totalitarian development of capitalism.

2. Their work with the CIA and their acceptance within academia generally show that the bourgeoisie have been able to co-opt their insights and use these against the working class. (the degree to which the development of capitalism since then has been consciously aimed at making class consciousness more difficult to come by). This also effects how we look at the process of decomposition. While decomposition is partly a ‘natural’ result of capitalism reaching its logical conclusion (the complete commodification and atomisation of all aspects of life and society) it is also partly a process being purposefully encouraged in certain ways i.e. separating the class from itslef and making it harder and harder for the very ideas of solidarity and class consciousness from emerging.

 

The Frankfurt school have made a return of sorts in recent years; mostly in their use by conspiracy theorists using them (often as a code/stepping stone towards ‘the Jews’) as a scapegoat for the modern ‘identity politics’ and the undermining of traditional morality. This is partly a typical example of the conspiracy theorists mindset blaming individuals for historic tendencies but it also reflects a certain reality which I have alluded to already; namely the way I which the bourgeoisie have used their knowledge of Marxism and its analysis of capitalism to further manipulate the masses.

 

The point I’m making boils down to this: the weakness of the working class since WW2 (including the resurgence which was quickly co-opted and controlled in 68) should not be underestimated. The idea of the European working class holding the key to the class struggle to me seems more and more outdated and has less ans less basis in reality. Europe is less and less central to capitalism as a whole and the experience of struggle in Europe is in danger of becoming a myth.

The proletariat needs to rediscover itself but I think this will come hand in hand with a rediscovery of our pre-proletarian past as well, and this will mean a closer identification with the workers in what was and in some cases still is, the ‘periphery’ of capitalism. As these areas develop and the living standards in the West more and more fall to the level of their class brothers and sisters around the globe this identification will become easier; however it will also be accompanied by increasingly vigorous attempts at stoking national division and ‘identity’. The experience of the revolutionary minority will certainly be central but should not be overstated. Only the class as a whole can save itself and humanity.

 

Alf
proletariat's nature

Jaycee's efforts to continue the discussion that began at the meeting are welcome and he poses a number of interesting questions:

 - the bourgeoisie's capacity to use the insights of certain thinkers, such as those of the Frankfurt school, against the proletariat, and the need for a deeper critique of this school, which provides one of the sources of the various 'modernist' ideas that flourish in periods when the working class is experiencing difficulties.

 - the strengths of the working class but also its 'inbuilt' difficulties.

 - The question of the specific role of the European working class.

As Marx put it: the proletariat is “a class of civil society which is not a class of civil society”. The idea of its "dependence" on capitalism, the impossibility of escaping it while it still reigns over society, is linked to the first aspect, as well as to the dangers arising alongside the fight for reforms in the ascendant period. But as jaycee says himself, this very “dependence” also points to the necessity for a complete break with the capitalist system, for its revolutionary destruction. And paradoxically, it is this very need which lies at the source of the difficulties of the class. As the resolution from our 23rd Congress puts it:  

As highlighted in the article in International Review n°23, ‘The struggle of the proletariat in the period of decadence’, the working class is confronted with several factors which make the politicisation of its struggles difficult”

The most primordial of these factors resides in:

“The true nature of the proletariat both as an exploited class, dispossessed of all property, and as a revolutionary class, has always meant that class consciousness cannot advance from victory to victory but can only develop unevenly towards victory through a series of defeats, as Rosa Luxemburg argued".

And of course Marx, in the 18th Brumaire, showed the difference between bourgeois and proletarian revolutions - the former going from strength to strength because it has its own economic base in society, the latter advancing only in an uneven manner, above all because the class tends to shrink back faced with the immensity of its tasks. The resolution then goes on to explain why this fundamental problem is exacerbated both by the conditions of decadence in general and of decomposition in particular. https://en.internationalism.org/content/16703/resolution-balance-forces-between-classes-2019

I wouldn’t agree that we overstate the role of the European working class, even if it has become more necessary to evaluate the potential contribution to the revolution of the new sectors of the class in countries like China. But this could be developed in further posts. Perhaps jaycee could also explain more why he thinks that “the fact that the only successful revolution in our history came from a ‘new’ proletariat is also more significant than it is often seen to be”.

It would also be interesting to hear from other comrades who took part in the meeting.

jaycee
In terms of the importance of

In terms of the importance of the 'newness' of the Russian proletariat; firstly I was thinking of the establishing of soviets. This seems to have a connection to the experience of being a peasant and having a greater sense of material community and more control of day to day life as well as a independent mind-set more generally. Obviously the 'newness'/weakness of the Russian bourgeoisie is also important here. Also the fact that the bourgeoisie had not had time to incoperate workers organisations in the same way as they had done in Germany. nut again this weakness of thebourgeoisie is also a strength/weakness for the proletariat. The German proletariat were more prepared to accept reform as they had more illusions in democracy/'social democracy.

 

In terms of the other points raised I will need to read the texts provided more closely before I respond

baboon
I was wrong-footed at the

I was wrong-footed at the beginning of the discussion assuming it was to be about something else so the question of the Frankfurt School and the modernist elements who talked about the assimilation of the working class into capitalism passed me by a bit. It's interesting that Jaycee makes the point about the way the bourgeoisie uses Marxism to undermine and oppose class actions. A small example of this was an element of the libcom administration part of whose job as a university lecturer was to advise the police at senior levels on crowd control based on some understanding he had of working class solidarity. What was also surprising was the number of "libertarian anarchists" that supported his role.

We rightly look at the highest points of the class struggle between bourgeoisie and proletariat over its history and continue to analyse and try to draw the lessons from them. But there's a whole sea of almost ceaseless struggle, whatever illusions have been carried with it, and these include innumerable unselfish solidarity actions which operated at the highest political and moral levels: struggles against slavery, struggles against the conditions of the most downtrodden of the class, international struggles of solidarity the prevented the imminent outbreak of imperialist war in the late 1880's and, as far as its courage is concerned, we've seen significant class struggle even during the depths of imperialist war.  I think that this morality, which is one of the essences of proletarian struggle, has something of a link with pre-capitalist societies.

It's the contradiction of the working class, a class both in and out of society. Marx also called it an "outlaw" class but I think that it's the positive development of its own struggle that breaks its relationship with the bourgeoisie. There's no doubt about its current state of weakness and it's important to continue to discuss this while bearing in mind what Jaycee says is the necessity for the class itself to begin to pose questions.

I thought that there was some underestimation of the strength of the proletariat in China. There's no doubt it was a question of "lambs to the slaughter" in the rapid proletarianisation of large elements of the peasantry and there's no doubt that the conditions of exploitation in China are particularly savage and all-seeing. But these masses huddled together have learnt very quickly and their actions (as well as the names of some of their self-organised committees) suggest, even given their particular difficulties, that they will play a significant role in the class struggle.

I don't think that 68 was quickly recuperated as Jaycee suggests. It was a thunderclap and pivotal point but it carried many illusions with it. It's most weighty development was the global wave of struggle that followed it for over a decade. Still full of illusions but going in a direction of anti-union and self-organised struggles ending up with the advance and retreat of Poland 1980.  

i do think that Europe hold the key at a numerical and political level. The way the numerous proletarians of different countries live just a few hours away from each other means that a possible significant outburst anywhere could spread very quickly across borders - if it were to be taken up by others. All examples of class struggle are examples to other workers wherever they happen but I think it would be particularly significant in Europe.

KT
Response to Jaycee

Note: penned in large part before Alf and Baboon's responses to Jaycee but attempting to take cognisance of them...

I agree with Jaycee about the positive nature of the recent ICC contact meeting conducted ‘in person’ but mainly over the Internet. Technically it was an advance on previous attempts (that I’ve participated in) and the issue of the working class as the only revolutionary class in present society was well presented and discussed.

The meeting itself – as well as Jaycee’s thoughts (above) - led me to reflect about time-spans, about evolution and degeneration, about continuity and rupture, immediatism and perspectives…

The participation of ‘old’, established militants and sympathisers who’ve been active for over 45 years; those who’ve been associated with the proletarian milieu for less time, but still measured in decades (like Jaycee) and - interestingly in this time of proletarian retreat - much younger elements, illustrated one blindingly obvious but (for me) neglected point: unlike individuals, the class struggle doesn’t obey the rhythm of the human life-span but has its own dynamic, linked to but not totally dictated by the evolution of capitalism’s objective economic and social crises. Associated with this is the crucial importance of continuity within the proletarian movement – the handing on of ‘lessons’, of political coherences which can become material weapons at certain moments.

These thoughts prompted the following critical observations of what Jaycee’s written.

 

  1. “…The totalitarian nature of post WW2 capitalism and the fact that the working class in the ‘west’ had been to a large extent become pacified by the Welfare state and consumerism.”

The totalitarian nature of ‘post-WW2 capitalism’ is not in dispute. What’s wrong here is the idea that the working class ‘to a large extent’ was ‘pacified by the Welfare State and consumerism’.

It’s ironic that Jaycee makes such an observation within an attempted critique of ‘The Frankfurt School’. It’s precisely the ‘School’s most famous ‘son’, Herbert Marcuse, who argued in the early 1950s that the working class had been ‘integrated’, ‘embourgeoisified’ by a capitalism that had resolved its economic contradictions. These ideas permeated many levels of society – including the proletarian milieu of the time and subsequently. As Jaycee rightly points out, the ruling class made very good use of this ‘critique’. However…

The end of WW2 (1945) is not synonymous with the end of the counter-revolution that followed the revolutionary wave of 1917-1928. This counter-revolution – based on the physical decimation of the proletariat (co-ordinated UK-US and multi-nation attacks on Russia; physical decimation of workers and revolutionaries in Germany, Spain, etc) and on the progressive loss of its self-consciousness as a revolutionary class (the domination of the ideologies of fascism-anti-fascism; democracy v ‘communism’; defence of the Russian ‘motherland’) – continued from the late 1940s to the mid-1960s (and beyond).

Contrary to bourgeois propaganda, this wasn’t by and large a time of ‘affluence and of consumerism’. In much of Europe and beyond, ruin, social dislocation, an unprecedented enforced migration of tens of millions and widespread starvation was the prospect. From ‘victorious’ Britain (where the state prepared to get school children to dig crops in 1947) to ‘defeated’ Germany (where the population was initially placed on rations below that of the Nazi death-camps); from nuclear-polluted and war-ruined Japan under US military occupation to the labour camps of the newly-formed ‘Soviet bloc’: the first decade following war’s end was a calvaric nightmare and the second decade witnessed the unprecedented exploitation of labour power in the race for the reconstruction of the capitalist war machine.

Not just this: the erection of the ‘Berlin Wall’; France in Indo-China and the UK in Malaysia, the Mid-East  and Africa; the ‘anti-colonial’ struggles or the horrendous Korean War; the mass starvation of the Long March period in China… Continued inter-imperialist war and working class enrolment. The GCF (Left Communists of France, with organic links to today’s ICC) was wrong in the early 1950s to foresee an imminent third world war. But one can understand why…

Only in America could one even dare – and after 15 years – to sell the idea of ‘affluence.’ In GB, one also had to wait – amid the WW2 bomb craters and stinking slums – until the mid-1950s for an end to food rationing. Even then, petrol and other fuel was restricted during the ‘Suez crisis’… The boast of ‘You’ve never had it so good’ (Harold McMillan, UK Tory Prime Minister) had to wait until 1957 and even then it referred to the conditions of the ruling, not the working class…

The point is this: despite heroic outbursts (East Germany 1953; Hungary 1956) the working class wasn’t ‘pacified’ by a renaissance of capitalism but was still under the cosh of the counter-revolution. For a contemporary critique of the ‘integration’ of the working class, see Paul Mattick’s One Dimensional Man In Class Society https://www.marxists.org/archive/mattick-paul/1972/marcuse.htm

        2)  “The point I’m making boils down to this: the weakness of the working class since WW2 (including the resurgence which was quickly co-opted and controlled in 68) should not be underestimated.”

One of the (to me) intriguing aspects of the ICC meeting was the juxtaposition of the recollections of the ‘older’ ICC militants and sympathisers - some of whom were openly apologetic about their memories of intervening in the struggle of different sectors of the class, urging the extension and self-organisation of the manifold struggles of the 60s, 70s and 80s going on under their eyes – and the questions raised by young militants about the situation today: ‘how do we convince people of Marxism? How do we convey the potential power of the revolutionary working class?’

This striking difference of the tasks facing revolutionaries yesterday and today – and the conditions under which they were and are working – can only be appreciated if one recognises the immense social change brought about by the re-emergence of a new generation of workers from the counter-revolution at the end of the 1960s and its impact on all areas of social life. This stark contrast should in itself alert people to how powerful this upsurge was and its lasting legacy.

The apparent ‘bolt from the blue’ that was May ‘68; the subsequent years of inspired struggles from one sphere of the globe to another – the re-awakening of the international proletariat in three successive waves of struggle spanning over 20 years; the blockage this proletarian effervescence placed in the machinery of the war economy – cannot and should not be reduced to ‘a resurgence which was quickly co-opted’. Just as the idea of a post WW2 working class pacified by the Welfare State and consumerism’ is a distortion of the time-space continuum, so too is the idea that the ‘resurgence was quickly controlled in May ‘68’.

           3)      Linked to the above re-awakening of the working class and reappropriation of revolutionary theory is the question of the centrality of Europe. It did not escape the meeting’s notice that it was being held predominantly amongst militants of Europe (with the US and Australia also present) and that the theoretical endeavours – even in the counter-revolution – were carried out mainly by militants in Europe or in exile from it.

Comrades spoke of the fact that today, the proletariat in China and elsewhere (India?) was inexperienced and had not suffered the incursions of democratic ideology or of its associated organisations like trade unions or social democratic parties. What Jaycee sees as a potential strength, others noted as a weakness. The Russian revolution of 1917 as a result of a ‘new’ proletariat? It's not a question of where the revolution starts, but of where it spreads. It was defeated above all in Germany. Not because the proletariat was ‘old’ but because the conditions of capitalism – decadence- were ‘new’.

It's true, as Jaycee writes, that the proletariat is undergoing a deep retreat, in its combativity and its consciousness. But consciousness has different dimensions – including extent within the class as a whole - and depth, which is often expressed only in a minority. That political minority – including in its origins, in the 1920s, even the ‘Frankfurt School’ - was and remains strongest in Europe.

Jaycee wants us to recognise that the struggle against capitalism is also the struggle against time as imposed by the rigours of commodity production; against the separation of the producer from the means of production (including our connection to the land) and from that which is produced, as well as any control over the what and how of social organisation. In this, he’s quite correct. Searching for ‘untainted’, ‘new’ sectors of the proletariat, closer to ‘the source’, less ‘attached’ to capital, however, is a mirage, IMO…

 

Alf
underestimating the political dimension

I think that there is a certain coherence in jaycee's tendency to downplay the importance of May 68, Europe and the role of the revolutionary organisation. I think that, as we have said in the past, the bigger problem facing the working class and the potential for politicisation is not those who 'overstate' the role of the communist organisation (eg Bordigists) but the opposite, councilist danger of underestimating it and even rejecting it. May 68 and the international resurgence of struggles that followed it took place in Europe and it was largely here that the international revolutionary milieu also revived during the same period. Europe remains central to the development of the international communist movement because of these long traditions which don't have anything like the same weight in places like China and Africa, although we are seeing some interesting developments in parts of South America for example - and even in America which has always lagged behind in this sphere. The possibility of the future politicisation of the struggle comes from the same roots as the potential for the development of the revolutionary minority and these roots are still very deep in the old centres of the system. This is a discussion that should go back to our 'critique of the theory of the weak link': https://en.internationalism.org/ir/1982/31/critique-of-the-weak-link-theory

baboon
I agree with KT's point that

I agree with KT's point that jaycee's description of a working class pacified by certain fleeting reforms is a similar position to the "embourgeoisification" of the proletariat. I agree with the position on the centrality of Europe but the wave of struggle that followed 68 was an international one. I don't recognise a post-war situation where the proletariat was "bought off" by capitalism - the continued development of class struggle from an unpacified working class surely predated the outburst of 68 and beyond?

There's plenty to discuss regarding the above posts but I want to raise a further point from the discussion at the meeting that I think is interesting: The question was raised about the growing comprehension, from its most educated to its most instinctive sectors, within the working class about the real possibility that a future within capitalism is increasingly in doubt. Does this phenomenon have any weight? Can it contribute to a development of consciousness?  Can it contribute to a sense of demoralisation or impotence faced with the tasks ahead? I think that all those elements are in the mix but as part of subterrenean maturation this awareness of  capitalism's no future can be a spur to class consciousness proivided it is assimilated into and transformed by wider struggle. The intervention of revolutionaries has a major role in this.

On the centrality of Europe for the class struggle: I think that in its absurd and perverse way the "gilets jaunes" movement demonstrates how relatively easy (I use the term advisedly, all the forces of the left will be there) it could be for struggle to spread across Europe. The contradictions of a rabid nationalist movement like the gilets jaunes taking on an "international" dimension was untenable but it does indicate the way a proletarian movement, thousands of times stronger from its class basis and potential than the gilet jaunes, could, with the right conditions, spread very rapidly.

jaycee
While the

While the 'embourgeoisification' of the Western proletariat was a Stalinist myth which helped support nationalism and many other counter-revolutionary policies it did reflect a certain truth. The proletariat since WW2 in the west has been made to accept capitalism because of the material comfort it has been able to provide. This comfort should not be exagerated or turned into more than it is but it has played a role in the pacification of class struggle. Firstly it has set a limit to the extent of class struggle; people dont risk their lives unless they have to, therefore revolution is not likely with a well fed, sheltered and clothed exploited class. I think this is undeniable as much as 68 etc represented a resurgence and in some ways a step forward in clarity for the class this hurdle was always there. This changes nothing in terms of the working class being the revolutionary class or in terms of the actual relation of capital to labour but simply plays an important role in the explanation of the longevity of capitalism (as modes of production go it will still be one of the most short lived). The reason I brought in the Frankfurt school was precisely because of this fact; while their conclusions were often wrong I think they did (some more than others. Adorno being one of the bettter examples I think) pick up on real trends and problems facing the class. Just because it lead them towards capitulation does not mean their premises were entirely wrong.

When it comes to Europe all I really meant was that I think the uniqueness of the European proletariat should not be overstated. Its history makes it unique to an extent but it is becoming less and less unique and important. Firstly, Europe used to be the 'Vampires heart' which needed to be destroyed if any movement against capitalims was to be succesful; it is no longer so central (the degree of this decline in importance can be debated). In terms of the unique experience of the European proletariat this does have an important role to play but a) the European proletariat does not own these traditions and experiences; they are the common inheretence of the class as a whole (perhaps the real unique work of the European proletariat has been played in this storing/remembering and analysis by minorities) b) The 'maturity' of the class is mainly an illusion.

 These points link in my mind to an over-identification with the enlightenment and an over-emphasis on the uniqueness of Marxism/modern 'Communism'.  Marxism is a more scientific form of the dreams/struggles of the oppressed (and those living before oppression existed) but it is not necessarily 'better' than those movements (we certainly have not been any more successful). This is a question which could lead in many directions but I think it is important in terms of how we view the role of Europe. Firstly, the West-European proletariat is no more immune to irrationality, division or false solutions than the proletariat in any part of the world ('the Enlightenment' didn't do anything in this regard). This has to do with an attitude which sees the progressiveness of the bourgeoisie and the enlightenment as 'more progressive' than other moments of progress in history (the establishing of class/state societis, the world religions etc).

In terms of the weak-link theory, we don't know. We don't know where revolution will break out first. The only evidence we have suggests that it might be where the bourgeoisie is weakest but this is not enough to argue with certainty either way. I would say that there seems to be evidence to support the correlation between war and revolution but again we as a class have only had 2/3 real examples to go on. So while I wouldn't argue for either option being definite the examples from history seems to support these two assumptions (weak-link and connection betwen war and revolution) more than their opposite. 

 I need to do a more in depth study on parts of these questions perhaps but reading the thesis on the weak-link i noticed this: "in the asc­endant period of capitalism through a power­ful push by the backward countries towards cat­ching up with and even overtaking the most dev­eloped ones. But this tendency tends to reverse itself as the system as a whole reaches its objective historic limits and finds itself in­capable of extending the world market in relat­ion to the necessities imposed by the development of the productive forces. "

This seems to have been disproven since it was written. This proves nothing in terms of the decadence of capitalism but it does suggest that the old centres are not inherently central to capitalism. An equalisation of capital/power seems to be exactly what is happening today. This is far from a 'good' thing as it simply increases the chances of conflict but does seem to be a real trend which I can only see increasing over time. 

Theres a lot of stuff I've left out/not gone into as much as I could but I'll leave it there for now

Alf
question

Much to discuss here, but can you make more precise what you mean by point b, "The 'maturity' of the class is mainly an illusion".

Mizar
Actually the 

Actually the  bourgeoisification of the Western proletariat is not a myth, much less it is  a Stalinist "myth".

 Long time ago on October 7, 1858, Engels wrote to Marx: “The English proletariat is actually becoming more and more bourgeois, so that this most bourgeois of all nations is apparently aiming ultimately at the possession of a bourgeois aristocracy and a bourgeois proletariat alongside the bourgeoisie. For a nation which exploits the whole world this is of course to a certain extent justifiable.”  In a letter to Kautsky, dated September 12, 1882, Engels wrote: “You ask me what the English workers think about colonial policy. Well, exactly the same as they think about politics in general. There is no workers’ party here, there are only Conservatives and Liberal-Radicals, and the workers gaily share the feast of England’s monopoly of the world market and the colonies.”

This clearly shows the cause and effect. The cause is : exploitation of the whole world by the coloniser nation. The effect is : the proletariat of this nation becomes bourgeois.

30 years later Lenin noted that there are “nations where even the proletariat has been somewhat infected with the lust of conquest”,because “as a result of the extensive colonial policy, the European proletarian partly finds himself in a position when it is not his labour, but the labour of the practically enslaved natives in the colonies, that maintains the whole of society”.

Lenin concluded: “the British bourgeoisie, for example, derives more profit from the many millions of the population of India and other colonies than from the British workers. In certain countries this provides the material and economic basis for infecting the proletariat with colonial chauvinism”.

Here is the answer why revolutions took place not in West : because the conflict between colonised and coloniser nations was stronger than the conflict between the exploiters and the exploited within the coloniser nations.

That's why  it is highly likely that Western nations "infected with colonial chauvinism” would be last who come to socialism.

 

jaycee
The fundamental position of

The fundamental position of the proletariat remains the same though Mizar. The fact that the proletariat in the leading nations can become more attached to their masters is not unique in history. This is the whole basis of the myth of the Nation itself. The false identification with oppressors. The centre of the Empire has always treated its own citizens slightly better (overall, when push comes to shove it is the same methods used) than they treat 'outsiders'.

This took a qualitative step after WW2 and the post war reconstruction/welfare state/ consumerism etc. Since the 80's there has been a further qualitative step in the identification of workers as 'citizens'/'sovereign individuals'. However far this process goes, it never actually changes the material relations of exploiter/exploited and oppressor/oppresssed.

This is why the 'embourgeoisification' idea is indeed a myth. It is a problem of consciousness/identity; the fact that the working class as a whole is the only revolutionary class is not changed and the false sense of community with their exploiters does not truly change the fact that they are still enemies. Also, the proletariat of the leading imperialist nations remains key because as I said before the 'Vampires heart' is where the system is strongest.

In terms of what I mean by the 'maturity' of the class being an illusion is precisely this development of false identification with their oppressors. The idea of 'maturity' was bound up with a whole ethos of organisation that was dominated by the reformism of the ascendant period but it involved the development of a lot of bourgeois practices etc into the workers movement. This is of secondary importance to what I mean by the maturity being an illusion though. Mainly what I meant was what I said later on in that post i.e. that the 'maturity' of the class does nothing to prevent the same problems as the rest of the class. It is no defence against the same human tendencies towards irrationality, compromise/acceptance of servitude, etc. In some ways the more peope become used to capitalism, the more they are influenced by it; the harder resistance/even identification of 'The Devil' can become. However the memories stored in the few remaining bastions of proletarian consciouness (its lessons and experiences) is certainly a key role of the European proletariat; but I would say that that is where its specificity/uniqueness ends.

 

jaycee
Just to add:

Just to add:

In terms of who will come first or last to socialism; the Western European proletariat already came to it first. In terms of where the revolution will start I think we should recognise that we don't know enough to make particularly accurate predictions. As the 'equalisation' spoken about previously increases this will become more and more difficult to predict and less and less important. 

My personal prediction would be that the first 'revolutions' will be in places like South America/Asia but as I said I don't think it is possible to make 'absolute' predictions

baboon
Jaycee's interventions are

Jaycee's interventions are very welcome and the tone of this discussion positive - there are a lot of questions here and to continue with one of them:
the idea of a post-WWII working class "largely pacified by the Welfare State and consumerism" and its class nature undermined by being in a situation of "material comfort" goes a long way to supporting the ideas of Marcuse and his idea of the integration of the working class into capital and has a great deal of importance to how we see the working class today.

Around 1960 and its following years, rather than seeing atomised workers dulled by consumerism, saw a new generation of workers join the "labour market" and an immediate increase in the number of strikes  that built up towards 1968. If one was to ignore the former, or worse still, write it off as a period of comfortable consumerism, then one is not likely to see the vital importance of 1968 and from there, whatever its weaknesses and illusions, a far deeper development of class struggle. 1968 didn't appear out of a clear blue sky but from years of growing storm clouds and electrical tensions between the two classes. It didn't come from a class that had been bought off by capitalism but by a response that had broken out on the fundamental opposition of the classes.

Strikes were breaking out all over the world in the 60's despite the care that the bourgeoisie took (at the end of WWII) to deal with the class struggle once and for all - the embourgeoisification of the working class was part of the bourgeoisie's ideological arsenal in  this. The USA was hit by a wave of strikes in the 60's and significant strikes and radical student movements took place in the early to mid-sixties all over the world from Latin America, Asia, eastern bloc countries and Europe. In Britain, wildcat strikes began to emerge and the Stalinist unions that controlled virtually every major British industry tried its best to stem the tide but were hard pushed to confront the period of militancy and combativity.

One can't deny a certain amelioration of the working class in the late 50s and early 60's - a class that had been decimated, brutalised and terrorised by imperialist war. In Britain for example, even in its biggest towns and cities workers still had only outside toilets, so the tendency towards inside toilets indicated a certain "comfort"; but only in relation to outside toilets providing a certain comfort to a hole in the ground. It's hardly being bought off.

Television was also cited at the time as showing the integration of the working class into capital - it still is. But television was more effective than the Stasi in putting forward and maintaining state propaganda and the BBC immediately turned to it, not least for its indoctrination process for children, from it wartime radio success, as Goebbels recognised. In the 1980's, Saddam Hussein's regime gave away TV sets from street corners and anyone who refused got the immediate attention of the security services. Also quoted were the great labour-saving devices, white goods, blessing British homes but these were deliberate strategies to increase productivity and, notably, ratchet up the exploitation of proletarian women, whose integration into the class struggle was a feature of the 1960's and 70's.

As far as the Welfare State goes, it remains a major element of state propaganda but a worker in the 60's in Britain, having worked for 30-odd years and been through a war, would retire on a pittance and die a few years later.  The same worker, like all those that followed him, would work around 6 weeks a year for nothing to pay income tax and around one month a year to pay, directly from the wage packet, for the "free" National Health System.

I don't recognise the idea of a working class in the 1960's "largely pacified by the Welfare State and consumerism" and that approach could lead to an underestimation of 1968 and beyond.

 

 

Mizar
jaycee wrote:

jaycee wrote:

 

In terms of who will come first or last to socialism; the Western European proletariat already came to it first. I

Socialism in Western Europe?

No comment.

jaycee
Mizar; obviously I didn't

Mizar; obviously I didn't mean socialism was achieved in western Europe. I meant the proletariat was already generating and developing socialist ideas and to a certain extent were 'won over' to these ideas. This happened basically  as soon as there was a proletariat.

In terms of the comfort etc if post ww2 capitalism goes I am not arguing that it was objectively a great change, or that the gains made were that substantial just that the sense of comfort and the degree to the changes that did take place were enough that they did make revolution unlikely.

Like I said 68 was very advanced in a lot of ways and was based on real class struggle but was LIMITED in terms of the likelihood it would lead to full blown revolution. The 'stabilty' and 'comfort' gained after ww2 I think is clearly important here

 

dave63
This seems to have been an

This seems to have been an interesting and useful meeting if the posts are anything to go by. One thought I had while reading the posts was the idea that in the past workers supported socialism as an alternative to capitalism. I think that this is not totally correct as in my view workers perspective still remained within the ambit of capitalism even if it was dressed up as being socialism. The point is that workers as a class has never developed a consciousness that can be seen as being communist. The slogan Marx developed in the Gotha programme of the abolition of wage labour as bbeing the objective of capitalism is still the objective today.

One of the signs of the crisis within the working class is the rise of populism and nationalism as seen in the Brexit objectives where significant numbers of workers support Brexit and the idea of controlling the borders. This is what worries me is that the decomposition in capitalism is heading away from our communist objectives.

 

baboon
I do agree with the idea that

I do agree with the idea that there was a certain "stability" created in the major victorious countries of the west in the period from the late 50's and into the 60s's. The period wasn't one of a vacuum or of the attenutation of the class struggle; rather the main expression of this period was the beginning, in these countries, of the re-emergence of the class struggle.

It was re-emerging from one of the most severe defeats of the working class in history: the counter-revolution, a bloody defeat, mobilisation for war and the bloodiest war in history that hit Europe, like other continents, with the force of total war and the years of absolute misery that immediately followed it.

The 60's did not give rise to a revolutionary movement, a pre-revolutionary movement or anything like it. What it did give rise to was the re-emergence from defeat of a movementof a significant sector of the working class. This movement was an expression of class identity, less subservient to the needs of capital, more Bolshy, with its parameters for struggle opening up. Nothing more, nothing less.